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With the new year now underway, many resolved, “This will be the year I will lose weight.” If that was your resolution again, how are you doing?  Repeated disappointment to lose weight requires a change in mindset. What do you really want—to lose weight or to be healthy?  Remind yourself it isn’t about losing weight. It’s about getting and keeping a healthy body. Weight is only one aspect of that goal. When you strive for better health through wiser food choices, weight loss will come―without all those weird, expensive, and/or dangerous diets.

 

So stop! Change that resolution now. Too many of us become discouraged with diets in a few short weeks. We may eat something that isn’t on our new “diet” and decide we are a failure. We aren’t. That’s the problem with all these “eat this, don’t eat that” rules. If you truly need to lose a few pounds, how can you do that without “going on a diet?”

  1. Eat more. That’s right. Too many starve themselves, feel weak and famished, and then try to make up for it by choosing foods or drinks that don’t help weight or how they feel. Intermittent diets have become popular. That is, choosing a time to skip eating. In the right conditions, it may help some people. But for most of us, it’s probably not a good idea.
  2. Look for ways to give up junk foods or extra snacks without missing them. So often we eat foods just because they are there. We aren’t hungry. We just want something to munch. Or we see food and think we have a responsibility to eat it. Not so. When you feel any of these urges, ask yourself if you want it, do you need it, or can you do something else to get your mind off eating.
  3. Stop eating when you aren’t hungry. This may be a continuation of the above. Are you starved for that bedtime snack? Will something bad happen if you take a few sips of water and go to bed without eating again? How about those break times? I know how tempting chocolate can be, but if you must indulge with everyone else, choose just one piece or one cookie you believe will have the fewest calories and walk away. Who will notice (or care) if you pick a bottle of water instead of some sugar-sweetened beverage? Ask yourself, “Should I allow others to dictate what I should and shouldn’t eat?”

Keep in mind that those with diabetes need to eat in sync with medications. When properly regulated, eating extra foods may not be necessary, and if they are, those in the junk food categories aren’t a good idea.

Stop the dieting habit. Many weight-loss diets are dangerous, and few people stick with them for very long. Healthy weight doesn’t depend on any one food. It depends on you making better choices and eating smaller amounts. Try it. What do you have to lose but unneeded weight? Happy new year.

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What is Thanksgiving turkey and dressing without cranberry sauce? This unique, brightly colored food is a must for most during the holiday season.

Now, just in time for Thanksgiving comes information from the Cranberry Institute about the many health benefits of this bright red addition to our holiday meal. Alas, cranberries aren’t just for urinary tract infections (UTI). In a paper titled “A Berry for Every Body,” the Institute confirms a number of positive effects on human health. They identify seven specific conditions:

  • Anti-bacterial benefits: Compounds found in cranberries may help stop bacteria which can irritate infections in several body organs by sticking to cells.
  • Heart health: On going research shows promise of a connection between consumption of cranberries and heart health. A 2016 study showed that cranberry juice may help improve blood flow and blood vessel function.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Studies in 2009 found that in animal models, consuming cranberries significantly lowered pro-inflammatory markers. This suggests a potential protective effect for specific body functions impaired by inflammation.
  • Urinary tract health: This ongoing controversy continues. For decades, researchers have battled whether cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs. According to The Cranberry Institute, cranberry products help reduce the incidence and recurrence of UTIs. Some studies indicate otherwise and suggest that cranberry juice may not treat UTIs or bladder infections.
  • Antioxidant activity: Studies indicate that antioxidant activity in cranberries protects against destruction of free radicals. This is significant in such disease conditions as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Glucose metabolism: A 2017 study showed that dried cranberries added to a high-fat meal lowered glucose response and inflammation.
  • Gut health: Gut microbiota is a newer area of concern in physical health. Recent research indicates that cranberries may affect the gut microbiota in positive ways.

Cranberries are good sources of fiber plus the vitamins C, E, and K and the minerals copper and manganese. They contain high amounts of some plant compounds and antioxidants. Less familiar to us than vitamins and minerals, these substances include myricetin, peonidin, ursolic acid, and A-type proanthocyanidins which have shown promise in prevention of stomach cancer.

While these tasty red berries may or may not be a cure-all for ailments, it is a healthful food to include at Thanksgiving or other times. Try this Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Cranberries that I discovered and slightly modified last week.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Cranberries

2             acorn squash

1             cup onion, chopped                                                   Step 1 QUINOA CRANBERRY

1             cup celery, chopped

1             cup quinoa, plain or flavored

2             cups vegetable or chicken broth

1             teaspoon rosemary

1             teaspoon thyme

1             teaspoon sage

½           teaspoon black pepper                          FINAL QUINOA (2)

½           cup pecans, chopped

½            cup crumbled feta cheese, optional

1-2         tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Prepare the acorn squash. Wash outside of squash and cut into vertical halves. Remove seeds and pulp. Place cut side up in a baking dish and cook until tender, about 30 minutes, in a 400o F. oven.

Heat oil in a skillet and add onion and celery. Cook until tender and yellowish. Add quinoa, cranberries, seasonings, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 18-20 minutes. Add pecans.

For larger acorn squash, cut halves vertically and spoon quinoa mixture onto each quarter. Sprinkle with feta cheese, if desired, and place under oven broiler unit until cheese begins to brown. This is such a filling dish a quarter should be enough for a serving. For vegetarians, use this tasty dish as a complete meal.

While this is a great fall dish when acorn squash and cranberries are plentiful, don’t forget the cranberry sauce to go with your turkey and dressing. It’s great from the can, either jellied or whole berry, or make your own from fresh berries. Most packages have a recipe.

COOKED CRANBERRIES

However you serve it, enjoy your Thanksgiving Day knowing that cranberries are nutritious and a delightful low-calorie addition.

 

 

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While heart disease, at slightly more than 23 percent, remains the number one cause of death in the United States, cancer with 22.5 percent of deaths, leads the way in mortality we can help prevent by behavior. According to the American Institute on Cancer Research (AICR), nearly 50 percent of the most common cancers can be prevented. February is “Cancer Prevention Month.” What are we doing to help thwart one of these cancers?

Image result for free clip art cancer preventionUp to 90,000 cases of cancer per year are thought to relate to obesity. Those most prevalent include colorectal, breast, endometrial, esophageal, gallbladder, kidney, liver, lung, pancreatic, prostate, stomach, and ovarian. Diet in general affects our risk. If this is an area we need to address, the AICR recommends several steps for cancer prevention.

  • Avoid underweight. While many facts are known regarding the problems of too much weight, underweight is not the answer. The wise will remain within a recommended weight range.
  • Avoid components in foods that can hamper weight loss or a healthy diet. Some of these include too much added sugar, especially sugary drinks and high calorie foods, excessive salt/sodium in the diet, and processed foods.
  • Avoid too much red meats and choose fish or white meats such as chicken.
  • Do exercise or remain physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
  • Do eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Several of these foods are high in antioxidants that are known to fight cancer. A few of those include the following:
    • Apple antioxidants come from several phytochemicals, namely quercetin, epicatechin, and anthocyanins. The peels have additional antioxidants.
    • Blueberries, one of the highest fruits in antioxidants, also contribute high levels of vitamins C and K, manganese, and dietary fiber.
    • Legumes, in addition to antioxidants, contain lignans (plant-based substances that may act like human estrogen) and saponins (health-promoting complex compounds) and other substances that may protect against cancer.
    • Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, romaine, mustard greens, collard greens and others provide excellent sources of carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin plus saponins and flavonoids. These chemicals may possibly protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx, plus slow growth of certain cell types associated with breast, skin, lung, and stomach cancers.

No one can guarantee you will not get cancer, but how you treat your body can make a difference. Think about the foods in your diet that may contribute to your susceptibility to cancer. Then consider ways you can add or remove foods that may protect you from this dreaded disease. It’s no guarantee, but isn’t it worth a try?

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The U. S. News & World Report recently released their pick for “best overall” diet. The DASH diet ranked number one again for the eighth consecutive year. The diet also ranked at the top in the categories “best diets for healthy eating” and “best heart-healthy” diet. “Best diets” are chosen based on how readily most people can adopt them into their diets, how easily they manage purchase and preparation, and how well users can sustain the dietary plan.

The DASH diet isn’t a fad. It emphasizes long-term lifestyle changes. Initially designed as an appropriate way to lower blood pressure, the DASH plan has been well received and accepted by the public as well as health professionals. It is easy to follow using common foods offered in the grocery store. The use of readily available foods that don’t require special preparation saves time and money. Inclusion of daily servings of foods from different food groups provides variety and the opportunity to choose many foods without becoming bored. What foods makes this diet the best?

The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and meat, fish, and poultry plus nuts and beans (legumes). It limits sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, foods high in salt/sodium, fatty meats high in saturated fat, and less-healthy fats such as the tropical coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils. Fruits and vegetable provide antioxidants and are low in sodium, factors known to constitute healthy eating.

If you follow this diet, please share your experiences of benefits you have found. For those who choose to make healthy eating a priority for 2018, check out a shopping guide, copy a list of foods included, and place on your refrigerator door as a reminder. Take along a copy when you shop. Avoid those less healthy foods you often buy, and become mindful of better choices.

It’s your life. It’s your health. Be healthier this year by choosing wisely the foods you eat.

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cancer-prevention-monthFebruary may be the shortest month, but it’s a busy time for holidays and health. Valentine’s Day blows warm kisses amid cold winters. President’s Day follows close behind reminding us of extraordinary American leaders in past years. While we observe these two holidays, February additionally focuses on health. Heart-related problems are the number one cause of death in our nation. National Heart Month in February encourages Americans to alter lifestyles to slow progression of this disease.

This is also National Cancer Prevention Month. More than a half million Americans will lose their lives to cancer this year. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that nearly one-third of cancer cases could be prevented by eating healthy, staying active, and maintaining appropriate weight.

For 2017, AICR provided a 30-day prevention checklist to improve lifestyles. In these few remaining days in February, we can include modified food-related suggestions from their list along with other recommendations to help prevent cancer.

  • If overweight or obese, make every effort to reach your recommended weight. Up to 40 percent of all cancers are associated with excess weight.
  • Distinguish between weight loss myths and facts.
  • Measure portion sizes to avoid overeating.
  • Enjoy meatless dishes. Most American grew up with red meats, from hamburgers to prime rib. While we can periodically enjoy these tasty foods in our diets, to reduce cancer risks limit red meats, especially those that have been cured. Try healthier entrees from vegetables, cheese, or beans.
  • Swap processed meats for better protein sources such as fish or chicken.
  • Substitute water or unsweetened beverages for sugary drinks.
  • Learn the relationship between sugar and cancer.
  • Try new whole grains. Today we have access to familiar grains as well as those unknown to us a decade ago. Common whole grains include amaranth, buckwheat, farro, Kamut, maize, millet, quinoa, rye, sorghum, and teff.
  • Cook cancer fighting recipes.
  • Read labels. Remember, ingredients are listed on the label in order of weight, with the main ingredient first.
  • Take the AICR healthy diet quiz.

The dreaded “C” word affects many lives. Lower your risks by incorporating these suggestions into your routine and adopting permanent changes for a healthier lifestyle.

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 If you thought the title referred to your opinions, think again. The more correct question should be what’s on your MIND Diet? That’s right. Although the diet has been around for a few years, we don’t hear much about it. But maybe we should.

Rush University Medical Center developed a diet to slow cognitive decline, namely Alzheimer’s disease, in older adults. The diet combined the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets and was referred to as the MIND Diet―Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

How significant is finding a diet to thwart this leading neurodegenerative condition―Alzheimer’s disease? More than five million people over age sixty-five are affected. The MIND diet may lower the risk of this disease by more than 50 percent. Even those inconsistent in following the diet can cut their risk by 35 percent.

The MIND diet has fifteen dietary components with ten brain-healthy groups and five unhealthy-brain food groups. See how closely you follow this diet to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

Healthy foods                                                           

  • Green leafy vegetables: Six servings or more per week of foods like spinach, kale, and salad greens.
  • Other vegetables: At least one-half cup cooked or one cup raw once a day.
  • Nuts: Five servings per week. One-third cup equals a serving.
  • Berries: Three servings per week. Blueberries and strawberries are the best choices for a positive impact on the mind.
  • Beans: Three or more servings per week. These include one-half cup of cooked lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and similar varieties.
  • Whole grains: Three or more servings per day. Look for labels that say “100 percent whole grain.”
  • Fish: At least once per week. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines are preferred choices.
  • Poultry: Two or more servings per week. Remove skin and bake, broil, grill, or roast. Avoid frying.
  • Olive oil: Use as the main choice for cooking oil.
  • Wine: No more than one glass a day.

Unhealthy foods       

  • Red meats: Less than four servings a week. Use lean cuts and trim fat from those you do eat.
  • Butter/margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily.
  • Cheese: One serving each week. Most cheeses are high in fat and sodium. Swiss cheese is low in both and can add more cheese servings per week.
  • Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week. These contain high levels of sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week.

While this diet has many beneficial qualities that may lower the risks of many health issues―hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other maladies present as we age―there are drawbacks. Due to high levels of potassium and phosphorus, those with kidney disease should avoid this diet. Increased consumption of whole grains and other higher calorie foods may be inappropriate for those with diabetes.

For most of us, efforts to closely follow this diet may keep minds sharp and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. For this eating plan to become a part of our lifestyle, keeping a chart for several weeks helps. Below is one example.

To borrow from part of a cliché, the mind is a terrible thing to let waste away. Keep it healthier with the MIND Diet.

mind-chart-4

 

 

 

 

2016-10-06

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The Paleo Diet, touted for weight loss, has a growing number of followers. What is this diet? Is it right for you? The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman Diet or Stone Age Diet, refers to foods available during the Paleolithic Age, when early ancestors weren’t farmers but hunters and gatherers. They depended on food caught or gathered from open fields and forests.

According to Paleo enthusiasts, the diet includes lean meats, shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils (olive and coconut). Restricted foods include dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, salt, refined vegetable oils (such as canola), grains, and all processed foods.

A recent study of older women on this diet caught my attention. The study included thirty-five post-menopausal women who followed the diet for two years and lost significant weight. A researcher not involved in the study pointed out that those conducting the study veered from a true Paleo Diet to one that mimicked much of the Mediterranean Diet, an acceptable plan for healthy eating. A study of only thirty-five subjects concerned me.

What can we believe? In January 2016, the U. S. News & World Report listed scores of the most common diets based on a scale from 0 to 5. The Paleo diet had a 2.0 overall score. On weight loss, it scored 1.9. The score for healthy eating was 2.1, and the magazine ranked “ease to follow” at 1.7.

The magazine rated thirty-eight diets, divided into nine categories. How did the Paleo Diet fare? For Best Overall Diet, it ranked number thirty-six, tied for next to last place with the Dukan Diet, and came in last for Best Weight-loss Diet. Not only that, to follow this diet requires more home preparation, thus more kitchen time ― a sparse commodity for busy families. It also tends to cost more.

Supporters of this diet claim it leads to a healthier, fitter, disease-free life. In actuality, it fails to provide a number of needed nutrients. Exclusion of dairy makes it difficult to get recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D. Limited grains and pulses (legumes) restrict needed fiber in the diet.

Before we embark on any diet plan, it’s wise to learn the pros and cons. When tempted to follow popular diets whose claims sound too good to be true, think again. They probably are.

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